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Sustainable leadership imperative for SA’s future

As part of the US Woordfees, the Bellville campus with the Stellenbosch Business School (USB), USB Executive Development (USB-ED) and the Institute for Futures Research recently contributed their expertise to the US Homecoming alumni panel discussions on the Stellenbosch University campus.

The topics covered centred around leadership, the economy and careers in the year 2050.     

Frik Landman, CEO of USB Executive Development (USB-ED), spoke on Sustainable leadership in the African context 

It is sad to see the short-sightedness and self-directedness of our leaders on the African continent and in South Africa, especially political leaders. We have all the potential in the world, but it is not being used in a sustainable manner. There is simply a lack of sustainable leadership.

The question can be asked why there should be the adjective “sustainable” in front of the word leadership.

It puts the focus on a need for leadership on the continent, to develop its abundance of resources in a sustainable manner and to create wealth for all. Not just for now, but also for future generations.
Sustainable leadership signals intent to “keep on going”, endurance and something that is happening over the long-term, and keeps on happening.

Africa is the richest continent in the world and the envy of others in terms of resources, and yet the poorest. Something is amiss. While there are many factors contributing to it, sustainable leadership is key in this scenario. The biggest and overriding need in Africa is the eradication of poverty.

A sustainable leader needs to be in the economic, natural resources and social environment. Leaders in business, government and NGOs need to look at the relationship between the individual, organisation and its environment and start to redefine it. It is not delivering what is needed as it is defined at present.

Leaders in Africa must develop a particular set of values with a world view. This must be with a focus on the long-term and not on short-term gains.

Dr Renata Schoeman, USB alumnus and psychiatrist spoke on Healthy Leadership

One out of every four people in South Africa suffer from some form of mental disorder and only 75% of them get access to treatment. Up to 40% of work related illnesses are due to anxiety, burn out, stress and depression.

This translates to an income loss on average of R54 000 per affected individual per year and a total loss of R40.6 billion per year for the economy, or 2.2% of the GDP.

A healthy leader with the necessary emotional intelligence will know what is needed by employees in an organisation. This is where a cultural shift is needed. It is not about performance, but to nurture the capital we have to prevent the negative impact on financial indicators of an organisation.

For her there are five SEEDS for mental health and resilience of a healthy leader:

S = Good and enough sleep
E = Exercise 
E = Education
D = Diet
S = Socialise

For a busy executive in a leadership position time is always a problem, but should be seen as a “healthy” investment that is being made.

Prof Mias de Klerk, USB Faculty, spoke on Leadership with soul and purpose

A leader in an organisation must understand why people work and are willing to come to work. Work has become central to who we are, our identity and our sense of meaning in life.

Research has shown that people will continue to work even if they do not have to.

If work is that important to people, the question becomes - how do I as a leader lead people at work? For most employees it is not only to earn a living, but to a large extent the workplace is where they find meaning in (their) life. It is something very specific and has to do with the work each individual does.

Leaders are in a position to help people to find their work meaningful. Also to be hopeful in situations that sometimes can be hopeless.

Dr Morné Mostert, futurist and Director of the Institute for Futures Research at Stellenbosch University spoke on the influence of technology advances on the economy and careers in 2050

We have never been in the situation we are now in and the risk is that we are using the logic of the past to deal with the present. This can have serious complications of how we think we can be competitive in the future.

The economic revolutions of the past will not be the same in the future. We will have other different kind of revolutions and we will have to think how we design that future – for ourselves and also for society. How we see that future will have to become a day-to-day task for an individual.

We will not have the luxury to reflect on what used to happen and then apply ourselves to the work of today. We will more frequently have to develop the intellectual competency to first explore what is possible in the future, and secondly the kind of role we believe we could and perhaps should play in it as an individual and also as a society.

One of the problems with living in the past is that there is no future in it.

There are lessons to be learned from the past, but the decisions that are to be taken now have to be based on the future. If you base your career decision on what was good in the past, you are exposing yourself to a lot of risk.

A mental revolution is needed where we do not tackle the future by trying to solve the problems of the past. We should tackle the future by looking at the opportunities of the future.
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